Dirty Dishes

Cassie always knows what I’m thinking. She told me about the whole ESP thing just before we moved in together. How she had inherited the gene from her mother’s mother and used her power to get whatever she wanted before she let on to anyone that she already knew everything they were thinking. She even gave me the chance not to move in with her after she told me, but I never hesitated. No woman as beautiful as Cassie had ever given me the time of day. Sometimes I wonder what the hell I was thinking.

“You’re thinking that you thought you had the power to line your skull with lead and shield your thoughts from me,” Cassie says nonchalantly as she scrolls through TikTok on her phone while we eat dinner.

I shovel a forkful of her incredible baked mac-&-cheese into my mouth to prevent myself from telling her to get the hell out of my head.

“But inside your head is so fun!” she smirks. “It’s like the ‘Small World’ ride at Disneyland! Full of childish wonder and silly music. I can’t really take full credit for the mac-&-cheese, though. After all, I know exactly how you like it.”

I toss my fork down and shove the plate away. “If I’m such a child, then why did you . . .”

“. . . ever want to live together?” she finishes. “Because you’re the only one does it for me. For some reason, that moment after we have sex is the only time now—or ever, really—when I’m completely alone with my thoughts. And it’s beautifully, blissfully quiet.”

“So I’m the only guy . . .”

“. . . who’s ever made me feel that way? Oh yeah! Do you know how many guys I’ve been with over the years? Well, the exact number doesn’t matter. But not one of them could give me a moment’s peace the way you do.”

“Would you please just let me finish . . .”

“. . . a sentence?” Cassie laughs. “Why does it bother you? Can’t you just be content knowing you’re the only person who’s able to give me exactly what I need? I know I am.”

“So that’s it?” I say flatly. “We’re just . . .”

“. . . together because you give me . . .”

“Stop doing that, dammit!” I yell, cutting her off before she can steal one more of my thoughts. If I’m honest, though, I have to admit that I’m . . .

“. . . proud of being the only one?” she asks, finishing my thought. “You should be.”

I stare at her as if seeing her for the first time. She remembers that first time, I’m sure. Even if she doesn’t, I know she can see it in my mind because I will never forget it. I was camping with my best buds Kevin and Doug. She was camping with friends one campsite over. I can’t remember their names.

“Katy and Julie,” Cassie says.


“My friends back then. Katy and Julie.”

I shrug. I didn’t care then what their names were because Cassie was so beautiful in the flickering light of a communal bonfire. I’d never seen a woman like her in person: dark, cat-like eyes, heart-shaped face, lips full and red as ripe cherries . . .

“That’s pretty cheesy, don’t you think?” Cassie says before she starts laughing at some dumb video.

“What’s cheesy?” I ask sheepishly.

“‘Lips full and red as ripe cherries . . .’”

“I never said I was a poet,” I whine. But it’s true: that’s exactly what I thought. And when I kissed her lips later that night as we made love in the woods away from everyone, I thought they tasted like ripe cherries, too.

“I used to wear cherry lip gloss back then,” she says.

I ignore her and focus on the memory of our first time together. Cassie knew exactly what I wanted, what I needed. I believed that our bodies had become one body and that I was truly making love with a woman and not just having sex. And now I know that it was all just a lie.

“Not a lie. Just not the whole truth,” Cassie says defensively.

I roll my eyes and blow out a heavy sigh. “Are you . . .”

“. . . done? Yep. Can you cut me a slice of pie? I made your favorite. Key lime. It’s in the fridge.”

I take our plates and walk to the sink. I clear my mind of everything and just focus on the soap suds that grow as I wash the dishes. Light through the window over the sink catches in the bubbles and speckles them with tiny rainbows that shimmer like the shifting auroras I saw once when my father took me camping in Alaska.

“Who says you’re not a poet?” Cassie quips. “That’s a lovely image.”

I don’t respond. Instead, I stare down into the mass of bubbles growing beneath my hands. I wonder for a moment what it would be like to live inside the big bubble that sits atop the water like a globe of iridescent glass. I imagine myself insulated within it like a tiny figurine in a snow-globe separated from the outside world. I imagine looking up through the kaleidoscope of colors and seeing Cassie standing over me with a confused and unknowing look on her face. Are you able to read my thoughts from outside of my bubble? I think to myself. I pause for a moment, anticipating her answer, but she keeps quiet. Are my thoughts inside this bubble finally mine and only mine? Am I happier living alone inside this bubble?

Cassie gets up from the table, walks to the refrigerator, and takes out the key lime pie. She grabs a fork from the drawer and begins eating straight from the tin.

“I would’ve gotten that for you,” I say, snapping out of my daydream.

“Really?” she says doubtfully.

“You mean you don’t know?”

Cassie looks at me with those dark, cat-like eyes that hypnotized me the first time I saw them. She takes another bite of pie and sets the tin on the counter. “C’mon,” she says. “Dry your hands off. The dishes can wait.”

“C’mon where?” I ask, confused.

“C’mon to bed,” she says, clearly agitated. “I need some time alone with my thoughts.”

I look into the sink where the last bubble sits for a moment on the edge of the drain before a stream of water catches it and pulls it down into a deep and unknowable darkness.

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